SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — As Russia continues to invade Ukraine, more people are fleeing their homes in search of a safe place.
Up to 71,000 Ukrainians are now in the United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security, including right here in Savannah.
Liudmyla from western Ukraine left her home country on foot, crossing through Poland while pregnant.
“There was two choices, by car or walking you can cross by,” she said. “But it was a big line of cars, around three days of waiting, so we just went walking across and we crossed really fast, thank God.”
“I think why I left Ukraine is because of the baby,” Liudmyla continued. “If I wasn’t pregnant, I wouldn’t have left Ukraine. I’d probably go fight for my country.”
Liudmyla got to Savannah in March. After finding housing, she’s now settling into her new life and said she’s thankful to the community for welcoming her with open arms.
“A lot of support for me, it’s given me strength to move forward and to not give up because sometimes we have hard days as well,” Liudmyla said.
Other Ukrainians are still finding their footing, like Valentyna from a small town in the southwest part of the country. She’s been in the U.S. just shy of two months.
“We couldn’t believe that Russia would attack until the very last moment,” Valentyna said. “It started and then we were shocked, we couldn’t believe that, that was happening for two weeks or so, you know. We still thought that ‘oh, it just has to stop, it’s impossible, it’s unbelievable.’”
Local organizations are helping Ukrainians fleeing the violence — from providing financial assistance to connecting them with the community and others from their home country.
“My first day I was just looking at the two flags together, American and Ukrainian, and it was very heartwarming and a very good feeling,” Valentyna said. “I’m very happy that we are connected even though the subject, the reason is very sad. But it gave me new friends, new connections.”
As Liudmyla and Valentyna continue to watch the devastation back home, they long for the day they can safely return.
“I just hope that this war will stop as soon as possible and we’ll be able to live just our happy lives together,” Valentyna said.
In March, President Biden announced a commitment to allow 100,000 Ukrainian refugees in the U.S.